Most of us live our life slightly below the horizon of awareness. Only occasionally do circumstances cause us to momentarily see beyond our immediate needs or desires. It’s really hard to get out of our own way. The ability to see beyond everything is spiritual seeing, or spirituality. Spirituality is awareness of another plane of reality beyond ourselves.
A spiritual mind is aware of transcendent reality, and creates space for this reality on its terms. A natural (religious) mind either denies transcendent reality or insists it only exists on our terms. Our lives fade in and out of spiritual and natural reality everyday.
Our default mode is always ego-centric. Consider children, they’re hardwired for self-focus. Our viewpoint is all we typically understand and spirituality is the only correction for this. If we live below the horizon of awareness, then we construct the world around ourselves. Within us, the spiritual longing to be “known” causes us to try on various identities throughout life.
- As children we are identified by our families.
- As teens we try on identities of our peers.
- As adults we wear the identities of our occupations.
- We take on the identities of our communities, clubs, hobbies, and organizations.
- We struggle to shed our over-idenfiication with our tragedies, weakness or failings
- We latch on to our identities of success, power, and influence.
Without seeing the island just beyond the horizon, we’ll make a fatal mistake: we’ll think we ARE such things. Without spiritual seeing, we inevitably trade in our true self (soul) for a fake I.D. Jesus taught that we could gain the whole world and forfeit our self (Luke 9:25).
How dow we know if we are living under a fake I.D? I’ll offer these two questions:
- Is your happiness in life based upon any of the following:
- Family and Friends
- Social status (married, job title, zip code, popularity)
- Financial status
- Material possessions
- How much of your life is spent running from the past or running to the future?
Religions at their highest levels access this quest for the true self, or the soul. The biblical word for soul is “psuxe” from which we get our word psychology. So even among the social sciences, the quest to find the true self beneath the noise and distraction of life is the goal of true self discovery. John Calvin said in his Institutes that the knowledge of God and the self are inseparable and “not easy to discern.”
We know we live under a fake I.D. when we are not seeking self-improvement, but only self-gain, self-promotion, or self-comfort. The fake I.D. hides our ego and the depth of just how hideous we can be. The fake I.D. is tribal, dualistic, and gets offended easy. It’s quick to anger and lashes out at any criticism. The fake I.D. knows that it stands on a house of cards (shifting sand). Because the fake I.D. is directly tied to externals, the moment something is lost, the fake I.D. is lost with it, so it spends endless calories protecting, comparing, measuring itself to everything else.
It goes without saying that the fake I.D. causes us to do things we wish we didn’t do. We lie, deceive, hoard, scheme, manipulate and puff up. Those that fail to free themselves from their fake I.D. will inevitably conclude that they are what they do. The deception is that our doing creates our being. If you tell a lie, then you are a liar. If you stole something then you are a thief. If you fail at something then you are a failure. If you succeed at something then you are a success.
Spirituality is different–spirituality is about being, not doing. Our being is what leads to our doing, not vice-versa. We do bad things because we don’t know who we are. In fact “bad things” are really only us going after good things in bad ways.
“What about sin? What about punishment for sin?” This is where it gets really interesting…and theological.
There was never a time when any human soul was not in the perfect mind and wisdom of God. This means that before any of us came to be, God possessed complete knowledge of the real us. (Psalm 139:16). That true self that existed before we were born will exist in truth forever after we die. It cannot be lost so long as God is omniscient (all knowing). There can be no new or lost knowledge in God. Since God is perfect Truth, then as Thomas Merton says, “The false self is the only thing God cannot know anything about.” (Matthew 7:21). Light displaces all darkness.
Revelation 21:8 depicts the great day of judgement (separation). Here John lists all the bad horrible things people do as determined by the books of deeds (distinct from the book of life-the true name of all souls). Then he says “that part of them” (to meros auton) will be burnt in the lake of fire. That’s the future of the fake I.D., the false self. It will be consumed and lost forever. What’s left is that which is in the book of life, the real soul. Every false name (not written in the book of life) is consumed. Only your true name, true self is left and it returns from where it came.
Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 3:15 talking about “the day“. He says: “if anyones work is burned up he will suffer loss though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
The admonishment is clear. Do all you can to know yourself, raise your awareness, working to free yourself from a life defined by a fake identity. Find yourself in God within the eternal moment and open your hand to anything that would pull you into the past or into the future. The God you discover is the shepherd of your soul in whom you have always existed, and always will.
Why would we try and be anything other than that?